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Monks playig trumpets at the Tiger Nest Cave in Bhutan, 1981, courtesy of Matthieu Ricard.

Tibetan Buddhist monk Konchog Tendzin was born Mattieu Ricard in Aix-les-Bains, France, in 1946. As a young man he trained as a classical harpsichordist and pursued interests in wildlife photography, astronomy, and animal migration. At 26 he earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology. His interest in Tibetan Buddhism began in 1967, when his friend the French filmmaker Arnaud Desjardins made a film about Himalayan Buddhist masters for French television.

Konchog Tendzin trained in the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism and was a close student of Kangyur Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche until the end of their lives. Ordained as a monk in 1979, he has lived in the Himalayas ever since. He has served as a translator for many Tibetan Buddhist teachers, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and has traslated such works as The Life of Shabkar (SUNY Press) and The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones (Shambhala). He now lives at Shechen Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. This interview was conducted for Tricycle by Senior Editor Clark Strand in New York, May 1995.

Tricycle: When did you become a monk?

Konchog Tendzin: When I was thirty. Some years before, I had asked my root teacher, Kangyur Rinpoche, whether I should become a monk. He said, “Don’t hurry. Until you are thirty, just practice and things will become clear. Until then, simply don’t get married.” When I turned thirty, Kangyur Rinpoche was no longer alive. I was with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. At that time a very great abbot of the Nyingmapa order came to the place where we were, and he was going to give vows to many postulants. So I turned to Khyentse Rinpoche and asked, “What should I do? I’m open to whatever you say.” He said, “It’s a very good opportunity to take vows with this very pure lineage.” So, I took vows.

Tricycle: How many vows were there?

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